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Justices Recuse Themselves In California Building Sale Case

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The Earl Warren Building and Courthouse at Civic Center Plaza (Wikipedia)

The Earl Warren Building and Courthouse at Civic Center Plaza (Wikipedia)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — All seven members of the California Supreme Court on Tuesday recused themselves from hearing an appeal by the Schwarzenegger administration regarding the sale of state office buildings.

Acting Chief Justice Marvin Baxter directed that seven state appellate judges be assigned to review the governor’s petition after Supreme Court justices recused themselves. The high court is housed in the Earl Warren Building at the San Francisco Civic Center Complex, one of the state properties that would be sold.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week made a last-minute plea to the state’s high court to allow the sale of 11 state properties as a way to raise $1.2 billion. The state had planned to sell the properties, which contain 24 separate buildings.

Schwarzenegger’s attorneys warned that unless the state can close escrow before the end of the year, “the sale may well disappear forever.”

An appeals court has stalled the sale to private investors while it reviews the deal. The plaintiffs maintain that it violates state law because the California Judicial Council must agree to any sale involving buildings that house courts. Their lawsuit also said the deal constitutes an unlawful gift of public funds.

Several independent analyses have found the sale will end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run. Many of the buildings are close to being paid off.

Also Tuesday, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order renaming the San Francisco Civic Center Complex as the Ronald M. George State Office Complex, after the retiring Supreme Court chief justice.

“I could not think of a more distinct honor to bestow upon Chief Justice George than naming the San Francisco Civic Center Complex after him,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The Earl Warren Building and Hiram M. Johnson State Office Building, which are part of the civic center, will retain their individual names.

Department of General Services spokesman Eric Lamoureux said a group of private investors trying to buy the properties would be required to keep the name of the buildings.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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